HomePlantNative vs Non-Native Plants: Making Your Landscape Succeed

Native vs Non-Native Plants: Making Your Landscape Succeed

By Joe Feather, Woodlake Outdoor


As you observe landscapes, there are two types of plants living around you: native plants and adapted plants. A native plant is a species that exist in a region without human introduction. These plants naturally survive and thrive in the climatic conditions of their given environment. Adaptive plants, also referred to as non-native, are able to conform to the new climate successfully, even though it is not their environment of origin.

The native plants in Texas have evolved to survive the often-harsh climates. In addition to Texas’ rapidly changing weather, it also wields a diversity of challenging soils – from heavy clays to sandy river bottoms. Native plants have managed to thrive, even in these conditions. Additionally, native plants possess a natural resistance to local insects and disease, and an ability to draw moisture from their native areas.

Curiously, a particular plant species may be native to a wide area or it may be more specifically native to a small region – perhaps just to one particular county or even a specific city.

Adapted plants can take on the traits of native plants. With access to plants from local regions and those from around the world, Texas landscapes have the opportunity to incorporate a wide variety of adapted plants. Plants that are able to acclimate to Texas soils and climates share some specific qualities:

  • Drought tolerance
  • Heat tolerance
  • Cold tolerance
  • Water usage efficiency
  • Lower fertilizer requirements for sustained growth
  • Pest resistance
  • Disease resistance

Here are some strategies to ensure the success of landscape plants, native and adapted.

Supplement soils with organic materials

Compost and mulch help to retain moisture while improving drainage. By enriching soil textures, beneficial nutrients are added – both macro (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) as well as micronutrients (copper, manganese, magnesium, to name a few). While compost increases soil’s moisture holding capabilities, it simultaneously helps stabilize soil pH.

Properly space plants 

Plants require specific distances, based on species, to thrive in the landscape. Ensure the plant can grow to its full potential size by preventing crowding. Compacted planting can lead to insect and disease infestation, shading out by nearby plants, and insufficient nutrient availability. The artistry of a natural landscape design will incorporate the sunlight/shade requirements of each plant, shrub, and tree planted – to respect the natural exposure requirements of each.

Accurately maintain the landscape  

A well-engineered design, professionally planted and established, must be well-maintained for the landscape to continue to thrive and evolve. Correct pruning and thinning, conservation-minded watering plans, balanced fertilizing, and consistent weed control are all proactive factors for a stunning, enduring landscape. Once set in motion, the landscape must be meticulously, intentionally maintained, or the investment and aesthetics will be lost.

Valuing the resources

Water conservation is always a consideration in landscape design, particularly given the unique climatic demands in central and north Texas. Grouping plants with same/similar moisture requirements creates a water-wise landscape, ensuring one plant type does not receive more or less water than it needs.

Designs built on the xeriscape model (pronounced zer-ə-skāp) create an environment of lasting beauty by respecting the innate requirements and nature of each plant, shrub, and tree. The art of xeriscape divides the landscape into three zones: a mini Oasis Zone, a Transitional Zone, and an Arid Zone. The primary delineation between zones is the water requirement for each. Lawns, for example, are incorporated into the mini Oasis zone as they require significantly more water than more xeric plants such as Red Yucca or feathergrasses.

Reviewing the plant guide

Published by Texas AgriLife Extension Services, this plant guide offers concise and comprehensive details for the best Native and Adapted Plants for Central Texas.

If you have further questions regarding native and adapted plants for your landscape, please feel free to connect with us at Woodlake Outdoor at Our passion is to create, maintain, and enhance extraordinary outdoor spaces for all to enjoy.